I’m ready to argue that Appalachian State is the best team in the Group of 5.
The Mountaineers had a strong 2016 season securing the Sun Belt Conference Championship, finishing 7-1 in conference play and 10-3 for the regular season. They also beat Toledo in the Camellia Bowl to take home their second straight bowl win.
In the first game of the season Appalachian State traveled to Knoxville to take on the University of Tennessee. It was an exciting game that kept fans on the edge of their seats. This game resulted in an overtime win for the Volunteers, but App State showed their strength and kept Tennessee out of the end zone for the first 50 minutes. Up until this point the Mountaineers have lost by at least 28 points during their last six match-ups against Power 5 teams. App State proved they can play with some of the well-known teams and this wasn’t a fluke game. As the Volunteers crumbled throughout the season I’m convinced the Mountaineers could have beat them if this game was scheduled later.
An expected loss to Miami was followed by a six-game winning streak until another loss to Troy late in the season. One common thread that weaved all of these wins together is that the Mountaineers beat each team by at least one touchdown. There were no close calls throughout the middle of the season, just sheer dominance.
App State had a memorable performance against University of Louisiana, Lafayette during game six. Quarterback, Taylor Lamb and running back Jalin Moore proved they are one of the best duos in the G5. Lamb threw for 201 yards and Moore ran for 106, easily defeating the Ragin’ Cajun’s 24-0 in their first home shutout since 2002.
The Mountaineers currently have six former players active in the NFL right now and more draftees are expected to join in 2017 including running back Marcus Cox. He is one of the most decorated players in App State history as the all-time leading rusher with 4,088 career rushing yards. Despite being sidelined for a month with a leg injury, he came back for the Camellia Bowl better than ever. In his final game playing for Appalachian State he rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. After his final game the stats started rolling in, he became the ninth FBS player with four 1,000-yard seasons and the 22nd to exceed 5,000 total. He heavily contributed to the success of App State during his time Boone, North Carolina.
With Cox out during the middle of the season it gave sophomore running back, Jalin Moore a chance to shine. He consistently found Lamb and was able to run the ball for 1,402 total yards and 10 touchdowns this season. There are high expectations for Moore in 2017 after his consistent performance on the field.
The highlight of the season for the Mountaineers was undoubtedly the Camellia Bowl because it was their second time winning in just two years. They beat Toledo 31-28 on a late field goal in the fourth quarter. Lamb took home the MVP award and head coach, Scott Satterfield was smiling ear-to-ear bringing the trophy home once again.
After the game Satterfield told ESPN, "We have so much fight and so much integrity in our football team. They do things right on and off the field. You can't win close games like this if you don't do things right on and off the field."
Thirteen games, ten wins, and a lot stats to evaluate as the dust settles on the 2016 season. Appalachian State had one goal as newcomers in the Sun Belt, to prove they can conquer the conference. The Mountaineers are here to tell you the #funbelt party is just getting started y’all.